The view from my veranda

The Ugly, the Bad and the Good

25th August, 2023

Shabbat Shalom!

I decided to call this week’s missive The Ugly, The Bad and The Good because some bad and ugly things happened this week but by leaving the good until last, I can tell you about all the wonderful things that happened both here in Israel and to me personally!

The Ugly, which has its compensations, is that finally one of the ugliest characters to appear on the international Jewish scene for many years, has been sentenced in Australia. The additional ugly is that there were those within her own community (sect) who attempted to prevent her extradition to Australia, where her crimes were committed, for trial. Of course, I refer to Malka Leifer who hid behind her pious façade to sexually abuse her students. It took three brave young women, sisters Nicole, Dassy and Ellie, to reveal the horrors they had suffered, in a community which unfortunately hides its sexual offenders under a cloak of secrecy. The Australian Court sentenced Leifer to 15 years imprisonment.

The Bad, I am almost too ashamed to write about it, involved a very tiny minority, but still far too many, of those who harass Christian priests in the Old City of Jerusalem. Bad, disgusting behaviour which must be punished fully. These men, and it is men, are on a par with the Hilltop Youth who harass and harm Arab villagers. Admittedly it is not violent so far, but it disgusts me and deserves the title of BAD.

On a similar theme but not in the same category, hundreds of Christian pilgrims came to Israel to celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration at the Basilica or the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor. The fire service prevented the overcrowding of the church last year and when they realised that the number of pilgrims was dangerous they cancelled the service. It is a shame that the arrangements went ahead and the cancellation was at the last moment but I believe that enthusiasm overtook logic in such a small Basilica. I feel bad for the pilgrims but perhaps next year there should be a decision that rather than a mass pilgrimage, they should be split into smaller groups. The subsequent bad publicity was sad.

There is a new decision by the Interior Ministry concerning visas for visiting clergy since the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem is not considered a religious institution. Since it was set up when virtually all other countries removed their Embassies from Jerusalem, to all intents and purposes claiming Jerusalem was not the Capital of Israel, Evangelicals formed the International Christian Embassy and as a frequent visitor to their home, I can honestly say that while it is Christian, Judaism is treated with the utmost respect.

There were two horrific terror attacks in what the Western Media calls the occupied Palestinian Territory, aka the West Bank or alternatively Yehuda and Shomron. A father and son went to the car wash in the Arab village of Huwara, where many Israelis go to shop and visit. As they sat watching their car being washed, a car drew up beside Shai and Aviad Negerker and sprayed them with bullets, killing both of them.  Kindergarten teacher Batsheva Negri and her 12 year old daughter were grateful to neighbour Aryeh Gottlieb for the offer of a lift to Kiriat Arba. As they drove BatSheva was killed in a terror attack in front of the child and Aryeh badly wounded.  The killing is not confined to killing Jews however. Sadly no less than, indeed more than 150 internecine killings have taken place by Israeli Arabs of Israeli Arabs. It is a terrifying situation.

I can’t decide upon which category this falls in but it is said that Putin not only has a long memory but never forgives those who go against him. Today an aeroplane carrying Yevgeny Pregozhin fell out of the sky, killing all on board. The reason and the method were obvious.

High time we moved on to The GOOD

I’m fascinated by genetics and for various reasons several members of the family have done genetic testing. We do everything in Israel in Hadassah hospital and when we sent our information to an expert in the UK, they were amazed to find that the Israeli genetic research is way ahead even that of the top hospital genetics departments in the United Kingdom.

Today it is all too easy to blame the ultra-Orthodox for anything and everything, but not Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Gottleib. Rabbi Gottleib is an exceptional man and a great scholar and I hope you have the patience to listen to one of his short lectures on why we should not hate, but rather that we should love, to be too busy in self-improvement to criticise others, that Judaism, the Kabbalah teaches us so. I have listened to several of his talks and this one has an English translation.   

On a similar theme, you may be surprised to meet Sergeant-Major Avishag Shiran Malka, mother of two, a Haredi woman serving in the Border Guards (Mishmar haGvul) a combat position. Avishag wears a full uniform, with a long skirt to honour her religious beliefs, it in no way hampers her ability to perform her duty. Although there are many religious men in the Border Guards, Avishag is, so far, is the only Haredi woman.

Israeli windsurfers in the iQFoil of the Sailing World Championships in the Netherlands, took both Gold and Silver in their category! Shahar Tibi won the title of the World Windsurfing Champion and Katy Spichkov finished second as her runner-up in the competition. Yet another sport in which Israelis reach excellence!

On Wednesday we had the great honour of being invited to a wedding, a very special wedding. Jacqueline and David Sackwild’s grandson Eli, who is serving in the Golani Brigade of the IDF as a lone soldier from the UK, married his Israeli sweetheart, Avigail who is serving in the Israeli police. The interesting part is that both are deeply observant Jews who serve and love Israel without compunction. The seating for the service and the dinner were separate men and women, which certainly didn’t prevent great jubilation, but for me, the highlight was when all of Eli’s army friends, his buddies, of every persuasion and origin, wearing just T-shirts and jeans, stood at the end of the runway leading to the wedding canopy and cheered loudly “AMEN” at the end of each blessing and then ran under the canopy to hug the couple! Young women who serve with Avigail came in their best bib and tucker, scantily dressed but utterly accepted. As we left the dinner Zvi and I saw all the backpacks, ready for their return to base and I must admit our hearts swelled with pride. A special thank you to Jacqueline and David for allowing us to be their family for the night.

Zvi is back from his sojourn in Austria with his boys and their families. He had a truly amazing time and my crazy 78 year old husband climbed mountains, literally, 19 story stairs up waterfalls, averaged 10 kilometres a day and came home happy and without any washing for me! It’s great to have him home again although my short, neat and tidy break is shattered!

Before his arrival I had a special visit from an adored cousin and his special wife. Ian and Sue Lipman came to lunch. Actually, they didn’t come to lunch they came to see our new apartment but of course I made lunch. They arrived at the Hemed Junction on the extremely comfortable bus from Tel Aviv and I popped out and collected them, it’s just five minutes from home. They usually take the train from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as do most of our friends, but we are 10 kilometres before Jerusalem and the bus worked out beautifully. We talked about our families, about the closeness I always had with Ian’s mother and father, Jean and Stuart, and his younger brother Bobby, all sadly passed away. We spoke about how he used to dangle all three of my children on his arms, when they were very young admittedly! Sue is such a lovely warm human being and I had the best possible time with them. I then took them to Ben Gurion Airport so that they could get the train to Tel Aviv and have a quick hug with the returning traveller as he left exit 03 with his suitcase….Zvi!

As you most certainly noticed, I have avoided the political situation in Israel. Firstly, because most of you have quite enough with the political situation in your own countries and partly because, we are nearing the High Holy days and have entered a time of self-awareness, of mindfulness of looking into our collective souls leading to self-improvement, to a collective self-improvement, in essence, following the example of Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Gottleib. Of coursed I follow the proclivities of this government, which are in direct opposition to the teachings of Gottleib, I follow and oppose but I repeat, Israel is so much more than a few racist, violent politicians and we will get through this, and soon. Despite the current leaders this is a wonderful free society which shows itself in the weekly demonstrations. We have a few glitches here and there but in general we are still that shining example, that light unto nations, that we have always been. We still love to go out “shpatzeering” strolling in the streets, enjoying the cooler evening air; stopping for coffee, going out for delicious food, meeting in friend’s homes, chatting to strangers, all done with our children. Me, I love sitting out on our veranda, watching the sun go down and feeling the evening breeze begin to cool the air, one of the great joys of life in the Jerusalem Hills. I love to see Jerusalem on the horizon, turning pink as the sun goes down. I love to count the baby fruits on the lemon, lime, orange and kumquat trees, to watch the tiny sunbirds suck the nectar from the hibiscus, the setting sun reflected on their iridescent black feathers……. In other words, I get through the political scene by appreciating every moment of sanity.

The first song today has the unlikely uniting of the voices of Aviv Geffen and Avraham Fried in a beautiful song entitle “In the Time of Drought”

The Shabbat table has the reputation of being all about food – be it chicken soup and kneidlach or chraimeh – but the prayers, the songs are exquisite. Avraham Fried again, but with all his nephews singing some of the wonderful songs.

There is one thing we tend to forget, that despite the politicians, the poverty, the wars that are a constant, this is a miraculous world. It’s all about people, you and me, how we look at ourselves and each other. We can’t control what happens outside ourselves, just how we look at our wonderful world

Tonight we will spend Shabbat dinner with Amiad, Noga, Ella and Yonatan, always a joyous occasion, but first I will go to see Rachel and family, just because it lifts my heart to be with them. I want to give a shout out to my wonderful grand-daughter Olivia in London who surpassed all of our high expectations in getting her GCSE results… so proud.

That’s all Folks! I wish you a good Shabbes, a Shabbat Shalom, a peaceful Sabbath from Jerusalem, the most beautiful city in the world.

With love